Kalamazoo Boxing Academy
The Forgotten Fighters of the Kalamazoo Boxing Academy
Broken into 10 “rounds” in tribute to the structure of a boxing match, the exhibit will trace the history of the Kalamazoo Boxing Academy while focusing on fighters who recount their personal experiences there. Details about the gym and the communal living space at the house will be uncovered, along with stories about the fighting techniques and philosophies of the trainers that made the gym in Kalamazoo unique and successful.
Although the KBA went on to cater to renowned professionals such as Muhammad Ali, Leon Spinks, and Floyd Mayweather Sr., its true impact on the community was its continued commitment to young, local sparrers. In 1978, two of the highest-ranked amateur boxers in the nation were KBA fighters Shawn Thomas and Eddie B. Stokes. To this day, Eddie attributes his boxing success to the devoted trainers and community atmosphere provided by the Kalamazoo Boxing Academy. He describes founders Henry Grooms and Eddy Bridges as “father figures.” Oliver Lewis, a middleweight who won three Golden Gloves Tournaments when he was in high school, credits the Kalamazoo Boxing Academy with helping him stay out of trouble as a teen and providing him with a deep sense of purpose. During its two-decade run, the KBA produced dozens of state champions plus Golden Gloves and Toughman Contest winners along the way.
Dacia Bridges, the granddaughter of Eddy Bridges, conducted dozens of recorded interviews with many of those involved at the KBA. She was in the process of completing a documentary on the subject when she passed away suddenly in 2019. Friends at Kalamazoo’s Lawrence Productions studio are completing her project, which includes a series of video clips that make up the foundation of the exhibit.